Monday, January 22, 2007

Your Papers If You Please

I have crossed many items of late that are worthy of my wrath, ahem, blogging, yeah that's it. I have been accumulating them on bits of paper, and quick notes on my machine. This morning even, as I brought in my newspapers, another jumped at me, leaping from the front page.

I'll tackle that one today.

Apparently, and this is a long time in coming, a passport will now be required and obligatory to land in the United States.

Oh boy! What news! Right…

To a long-time air-traveller, like myself, carrying a passport to go to other countries is a matter of course, and not something I ever gave a second thought about. In fact, I’ve had a passport of my own for my travels abroad since 1972. It is a defacto standard in my view, and always has been. If you fly, you have a passport! I am a more than a little puzzled as to why this hasn’t always been required, to be honest.

I find it rather presumptuous to even think that another country would accept your entry without some kind of official government sanctioned document identifying who the hell you are.

As much as I hold dear my freedom to walk around my own ‘hood with no papers, I certainly don’t expect any other country to abide by the same. I’m certainly glad when they do, I’m just not so arrogant as to expect it!

(Note that this freedom of walking around with no ID is being stripped from us here in Canada, by the way. I won’t get into why, well, not today.)

That was too easy, you see this coming don’t you?

What if I’m not going to the U.S.? What if the country I am trying to get to is beyond? What if they don’t require anything more than a driver’s licence or government ID? Or a heavy lump of cash and a bottle of liquor?

And the clincher: what if my airplane gets into some kind of mechanical trouble, or, heaven forbid, gets hijacked and is diverted to American soil? If I don’t have a passport I am screwed, am I not?

Sounds farfetched, doesn’t it? I can hear it now from the queen’s peanut gallery, “ah those silly Americans with their security, they are trying to make life miserable, blah, blah, godforsaken national security, blah, blah, get deported on a mishap, blah, blah.”

And I smile, that knowing smile.

I redirect us to the story of some doomed, and as-luck would have it American, hunters making their way to Alaska to partake of their yearly vacation. I’m going from memory again here, this was about a decade ago. Suffice to say, 4 grown men, flying from the contiguous U.S. up through Canadian airspace, with no intention of landing here at all, up to Alaska for some bear hunting.

Obviously they were packing heavy artillery, such as .375 H&H, .300 Weatherby Magnum, rifles & ammo. But low and behold, they were also carrying sidearms (those are pistols and revolvers for you non-gun savvy folks).

It is - in my opinion a little insane - but perfectly legal to hunt bear with a sidearm. There is an old joke in shooting circles that you want to hunt polar bear or grizzly, do it with a 6-shot revolver; the preferred method is 5 shots for the bear and the last one for you.

The general consensus is that a grizzly is just too stupid-mean to die and shooting it with any pistol is just going to piss it off.

(Note: one possible exception would be the proper use of .30-06 Contender, but that’s a whole other story.)

Anyway, back to our troublesome aircraft, which did in fact have to land in Canada for a short spell. Of course our hunters got detained for having sidearms without proper Canadian permits - which you cannot get, since hunting with sidearms is totally and completely illegal in Canada.

Regardless of their end destination, the laws and authorities make no allowances for mechanical failure, or weather, I forget. Our hunters were detained for the remainder of their vacation and beyond, and it took an act of God to get them back into their native country. And oh, by the way, all their gear was confiscated, never to be returned. Probably all got melted into paperweights as soon as it all got to the police station.

The joys of air travel.

So even fully documented, travelling over another country is liable to get you fucked over. It was by exception only that our hard-luck tourists didn’t garner 10 years in jail, which is the minimum sentence for their offence, according to 1976 firearms ownership laws.

So the peanut gallery from queen’s park may now proceed to shut the hell up.

The real question is: how can the (any?) authorities determine a legitimate mechanical failure from a disguised hijacking?

The real answer is: they can’t.

Self-serving case in point: I once asked a police officer what kind of car he drove on patrol, he couldn’t tell me. Thus unscientifically, and somewhat through syllogism I admit, I have nevertheless demonstrated that it is not of their purview to understand such simple matters as aircraft maintenance, either.

So once again, the snowjob is on, we are subject to political marketing to make us warm and fuzzy by announcing a so-called new, mandatory, piece of paper; which paper will still be used in a totally discretionary manner.

But, hey! We now feel a lot better about it, don’t we?


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